Current Issue: Vol. 41, No. 3, Fall 2011:Conversations
Get Acrobat Reader



Cara Tuzzolino-Werben
Idiom Editor

Elisabeth Gareis
Column Editor,
Culture Notes

Nanette Dougherty
Column Editor,
Book Review

Ann Wintergerst
Column Editor,
Promising Practices


Featured Article

Curriculum Mapping to Support the Linguistic and Academic Development of K-6 ELLs
Linda Roth, Lisa Sells-Asch, and Andrea Honigsfeld (corresponding author)

Our maps are always in pencil.
            —Terry Sales, ESL Teacher

Context for ESL Curriculum Mapping

For the past three years, general education teachers within Valley Stream Union Free School District Thirteen have embraced the use of curriculum maps to strengthen the K-6 literacy, math, science, and social studies curricula. Our practice has been informed by the work of Jacobs (1997) and Udelhofen (2005). Jacobs defines curriculum mapping as a communication tool that allows all teachers to see not what ought to happen on each grade level in each content area but what is actually taking place throughout the year. Udelhofen identifies curriculum mapping as a process “that is respectful of the knowledge of every teacher, encourages collaboration and reflection, and is sensitive to the complexities of student learning and the teaching profession” (Udelhofen, p. 3).

Most maps reveal four types of information: the content (essential knowledge taught), the processes and skills used to teach the content, the assessment tools, and key resources used.

The Challenges We Faced

We have also observed in our schools what Glatthorn, Boschee, and Whitehead (2006) and others have noted as an all-too-common disconnect among key components of effective schooling: state standards, district curriculum guides or frameworks, the teachers’ instructional plans and their actual lesson delivery, and the assessment measures used locally and statewide. Glatthorn et al. suggested curriculum alignment, which “is a process of ensuring that the written, the taught, and the tested curricula are closely congruent” (p. 278). Embracing these ideas, in 2006, we initiated a comprehensive, districtwide approach to school reform through curriculum mapping and alignment. Given the heterogeneity of our classrooms’ designs and the classroom teachers’ generalist approach to teaching, we have been working on first mapping then aligning the curriculum for each content area both horizontally (by grade level) and vertically (across grade levels) in order to organize the necessary content, skills, resources, and assessments in each content area.

Because Jacobs (1997), Udelhofen (2005), or Glatthorn et al. (2006) did not focus specifically on the purpose and outcomes of curriculum mapping or alignment for the sake of English language learners, and since we found limited resources on how to proceed with such a task, we developed a curriculum mapping and alignment framework within the context of a year-long professional development during the past academic year.

The ESL Curriculum Mapping Initiative

The 5-member ESL department in Valley Stream Union Free School District Thirteen offers a freestanding, pull-out ESL program in grades kindergarten through 6 servicing over 110 students from approximately 17 language groups. The purpose of engaging in a year-long departmental professional development was twofold:

  1. to ensure enhanced collaboration and communication among the five teachers who work in four different school buildings and who otherwise may have limited shared professional learning opportunities 
  2. to develop an ESL program that is neither fragmented nor segregated from the general education literacy and content curricula

The PD’s goals were set in collaboration with district leadership and with guidance from professional developers (the authors of this article) in response to concerns expressed by the ESL department. Both organizational and instructional matters were addressed: (a) as all content-area teams have been working on curriculum mapping, the ESL department recognized the need to be in alignment with district goals and initiatives; (b) the pull-out ESL service delivery model may have resulted in ELLs leaving their classrooms to work on skills and concepts without any direct connection to the learning that took place in their classrooms, thus resulting in a discontinuity in curricular goals.

Anticipated Outcomes
We anticipated that the curriculum mapping project would allow the five teachers to reflect and improve their instructional service delivery through developing a more uniform ESL program that establishes a purposeful connection to the grade-level content and literacy goals. We also hoped that curriculum mapping and alignment as a professional development activity would serve as a potential avenue to building a teacher learning community (TLC).

PD Implementation
In fall 2008, the ESL teachers began a systemic examination of their taught curriculum, explored existing curriculum mapping frameworks (Jacobs, 1997; Udelhofen, 2005), became familiar with similar district-wide initiatives, and began mapping the K-2 and fifth-grade ESL curriculum. They started out drafting year-at-a-glance maps for select grade levels (due to very low ELL enrollment in grades 3 and 6), and then moved to create month-at-a-glance maps. Through intense professional conversations, the five participating teachers redefined curriculum mapping and developed a unique form of hybrid mapping. This locally emerged, previously undocumented practice was carried out both by looking back (backward mapping) and looking ahead (forward mapping), thus combining the historical perspective as well as a forward projection.

Outcomes at the End of Year 1

Through regularly scheduled collaborative inquiry sessions, the curriculum mapping project allowed the ESL team to engage in both reflecting on the taught curriculum and planning for the future. The table the opposite page is a sample map generated by the ESL team in this fashion. As the hybrid form of mapping emerged, ESL teachers systematically documented their own practice and incorporated parallel curricular goals from existing mainstream literacy and content-area maps, then started working on curriculum alignment. The district administration was committed to providing both human and material resources (release time, summer pay, consultant, purchase of related professional books) to ensure ongoing support for in-depth teacher engagement and professional learning.
Our professional development focusing on ESL curriculum mapping and alignment resulted in enhanced understanding of the mainstream curriculum by ESL teachers and, at the same time, of the need for differentiated, multilevel (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced) ESL curricular goals by classroom teachers. Our aims of ensuring more interconnected instructional practices and a shared responsibility for our ELLs were met as indicated by the end of year teacher surveys. Some comments captured the varied experiences mapping provided:

“Curriculum mapping is a challenging process. Our maps are continually evolving to meet the needs of our dynamic ELL population.”

“The highlight of the experience was the opportunity to work collegially.”

“The students will ultimately benefit and that’s what’s so important, even though we have to admit that it was a little bit daunting at the onset.”

In the 2009-2010 school year, the teachers continue their work of refining and expanding existing maps, creating and aligning maps for grades 3 and 4 to further coordinate their instructional practices.

ESL Service Delivery: The Administrative Perspective

Through extensive participation in the PD, regular dialogues with and observations of teachers, as well as examining student data, district administrators found that curriculum mapping by classroom and ESL teachers has helped to identify gaps and to parallel the scope and sequence of the curriculum in all target content areas. Through the process of collaborative curriculum mapping, the changing curricular needs of the school district’s population are addressed. In addition, we also found that engaging teachers in curriculum mapping invites active participation from all teachers, enhances collaboration through sharing expertise and resources, and yields enhanced student performance (Hale, 2008).

Since the project started, uniform curriculum maps have been developed by educators across Valley Stream Union Free School District Thirteen. Curriculum maps have guided teachers to be consistent regarding student expectations. Curriculum mapping has made it more consistent to monitor student learning, strengthen and increase the possibilities for long-range planning, address day-to-day preparation, and facilitate clear communication among teachers. Specifically, the ESL department has embraced using the general education grade level curriculum maps to develop a differentiated, parallel curriculum for beginner, intermediate, and advanced ELLs. Mapping has allowed all teachers to find complementary resources and provide meaningful learning connections across the content areas. Classroom observations documented that teachers are working together to teach the same material whenever possible. Because of this, ELLs are able to return to their general education classrooms and participate more readily in activities. In Valley Stream Union Free School District Thirteen, the curriculum at each school has become more connected, thus student engagement has been enhanced. Everyone works together so that students begin to achieve at higher levels.


Glatthorn, A. A., Boschee, F., &  Whitehead, B. M. (2006). Curriculum leadership: Development and implementation. Thousand Oaks,  CA: Sage.

Hale, J. A. (2008). A guide to curriculum mapping: Planning, implementing, and sustaining the process. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Jacobs, H. H. (1997). Mapping the big picture: Integrating curriculum and assessment K-12. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Thinking maps. (2003). Retrieved from

Udelhofen, S. K. (2005). Keys to curriculum mapping: Strategies and tools to make it work.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

About the Author

Andrea Honigsfeld is associate dean and coordinator of the MS TESOL program at Molloy College, Rockville Centre. She is the co-author with Maria Dove of a forthcoming book, Collaboration and Co-Teaching: Strategies for English Learners, published by Corwin Press.

Lisa Sells-Asch, assistant superintendent for special services in Valley Stream District Thirteen, works with the ESL department, Special Education department and the teachers of the Gifted and Talented program to facilitate programs to meet the needs of children with many diverse strengths, abilities, and needs.

Linda Roth is assistant superintendent for curriculum & instruction in Valley Stream District Thirteen.  Linda and Lisa work closely to coordinate all services for students and maximize learning opportunities.